Sutcliffe and Nevin are teamed in CBC’s Cracked

Starting Monday night at 9 p.m., CBC viewers get a second chance to take a crack at Cracked.
The Toronto-based drama, about a Psychic Crimes Unit, barely cracked the half-million viewers a week mark in its first season last spring. Cash-strapped CBC renewed it, but tentatively, granting it an eight week fall run. That’s not much time to turn around a series.
While its tempting to say Cracked was broken, the consensus is the drama was too dark and downbeat last season. Executive producer Peter Raymont (The Border) agrees the subject matter–a crime unit with its main detective battling his own psychological trauma demons–may have turned some viewers off. It is a grim world.
Efforts have been made to try and lighten season two. Seasoned showrunners David Barlow and Bruce Smith have been brought in. There’s more emphasis to crime solving a case a week. The pace is swifter, at least judging by Monday’s season opener, entitled “Swans.”
Cracked‘s main asset is still David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls, Private Practice), who plays Det. Aidan Black. The actor has proven himself in both drama and comedy so allowing him to lighten up a little is just taking advantage of his skills.
An intriguing addition this season is Brooke Nevin (Breakout Kings). She plays Dr. Clara Malone, a fearless therapist specializing in social anxiety disorder–which should come in handy in future episodes when she is teamed with Black. She`s pulled into Monday`s season opener almost by accident and, by the end of the episode, is seen as the perfect candidate to join the police team.
Nevin is cheery in person and on the phone, although you don`t get to see much of that side of her in Week One. Instead she comes off ballsy and a tad confrontational, butting heads at one point with the ever-formidable Stephen McHattie as a senior-level shrink.
Much of the action Monday plays out all  over Ontario Place, a wonderland where I worked as a teenager. It’s sad that the 42-year-old playground at the foot of the EX was shuttered last summer and now lies empty, but kudos to whoever had the bright idea to turn it into a TV studio for this episode. It makes for a dynamic TV set.
The cop squad refers to it generically as the “Lakefront Amusement Park,” which I guess will ease international sales.
The episode finds a distressed young woman snatched by her gun-wielding boyfriend away from Malone and other caregivers. The two runaways flee the scene and start squatting in the coolest hideout ever–one of the large white pods of Ontario Place. Later, a baby is grabbed to add to the family and that’s when the police force closes in.
The hour flies by and Sutcliffe and Nevin enjoy the requisite chemistry. There’s a brief exchange at the end of the episode that explains away the blond haired actress who co-starred in Season One. If I’m the only one who thinks Black seems more paired now with a new young girlfriend rather than an older ex-wife, well, sue me.
The series had a relatively strong summer run, pulling about as many viewers in reruns as it did with first run episodes in the spring. According to Raymont, the early returns for the french-language broadcasts have been encouraging. Maybe that, and the reliable Murdoch lead-in, will carry Cracked into a longer third season.

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